Into Central Germany: Co. C Held Up At Thal
Later in the day, as the Battalion moved out of Thai, the leading outfit, Co C, was fired on by snipers. After patrols had driven the snipers away, the 3rd platoon, commanded by Lt. Harry Primeau, started across an open field when they came under withering enemy crossfire. The company took cover, but Primeau's platoon was caught out in the field. Capt. John E. Owens, the company commander, took over a house on the edge of the field as his OP and set up his machine guns on the top floor with the mortar section in the courtyard behind the building. Co. 1
B's mortars were also brought into play.
T/Sgt. John H. Barnhart, C's weapons platoon sergeant, was out in the field reconnoitering for a spot to set up his machine guns. Someone warned him to take cover. "Those bastards will never get me." Barnhart called back. An instant later a round from a burp gun hit him between the eyes. Sgt. Ralph Wolfe, an assistant squad leader, was killed when he raised up from cover to tell member of his squad to get down. A tracer bullet struck the cartridge belt of Pfc. Salvatore Cinquemani. It burst into flame. Several rounds in the belt exploded. Pfc. Lucien Dion, safe in a sheltered position, saw the wounded man, crawled through heavy enemy fire to him, cut away his cartridge belt, administered first aid and removed him to safety.
Finally Co. D laid down a smoke screen between the 3rd platoon and the enemy and the platoon withdrew. Shortly before nightfall the Germans ceased firing and took off. The next day the 1st Battalion captured their biggest prize of the campaign; a time fuse factory at Seebach and a girl slave battalion numbering 4,630. The girls, all Russians and Ukrainians, were overjoyed at their liberation and showered their exuberance on T/Sgt. Louis Evers, Co. B platoon. The capture of the time fuse factory took approximately 20,000 artillery fuses per day
away from Hitler's retreating armies.
The 3rd Battalion, which had been left behind to screen the XX Corps' flank was relieved during the day and reached Waltershausen at 0325. At 0825 the next morning, Co. I was moving toward Tabarz. Although Tabarz was not taken by the Regiment, the enemy was forced to evacuate the town after heavy shelling by Cannon Co., which inflicted numerous casualties and knocked out a number of vehicles. The Regimental CP was set up in Rodichen on April 7 and moved the next day to a castle in ; Friedrichroda. On April 8 the 3rd Battalion of the 355th Infantry was attached to the Regiment. At 1730 Co.L of this Battalion held some high ground and the approaches to Georgenthal. Other elements of the Battalion met small arms fire outside Allenbergen but by 1830 they had cleared the town. By 2230 the troops had reached the edge of Georgenthal but were held up by heavy resistance. The Regiments own 3rd Battalion was withdrawn from the vicinity of Tabarz and moved through Rodichen and Friedrichroda to attack Finsterbergen. Co. K and Co. L were abreast with Co. I in reserve. Co. M's machine gun platoons supported the forward companies. Heavy resistance was met and Co. K and Co. L were held up by tank, 88mm, mortar and small arms fire. Co. I supported by a platoon of tanks and TDs was committed on a wide enveloping movement to the left. After covering a distance of approximately three miles, heavy tree road blocks prevented the tanks and TDs from continuing in support. Co. I moved forward on foot. Moving up a road obstructed by a series of road blocks, the company approached the edge of the town.
It was nearly midnight, a pitch-dark, cold night. Co. I was surprised by sudden intense, pointblank tank and machine gun fire covering a final road block. Capt. Robertson of Co. I was wounded. Because of this temporary loss of leadership, the total darkness and the complete surprise achieved by the enemy, the company became somewhat disorganized for a short period. Then Lt. William J. Scull and S/Sgt Roy H. Hite displayed great leadership by reorganizing the men and continuing the attack, knocking out the enemy in the vicinity. During the night AT men were brought up with bazookas to help hold against any counterattack. At 0600, April 9, Co. I moved forward on its original mission, this time divided into two combat patrols. One patrol, under Lt. Edward S. Wasdell, moved to the edge of the town. The other patrol, under Lt. Scull, circled to the woods further to the left where it succeeded in ambushing the tank which was holding up the advance of the other two companies. At this time Cannon Co.'s fire started falling in the vicinity so the patrols moved up to a vantage point overlooking the rear edge of the town. As Co. K and Co. L started moving, they succeeded in knocking out the remaining three tanks and the enemy started withdrawing. Machine gunners and riflemen of Co. I's patrols had a field day as they opened up on four different groups of 15 to 20 Germans each. The Germans might as well have been lined up on an air strip. The town was then quickly secured and Co. K and Co. L moved forward to continue the attack. During the night several machine guns of Co. M came under heavy 88mm fire. However, they did not withdraw from their positions until their fire missions were accomplished. It was here that Lt. Ralph W. Ott was critically wounded and Cpl. Alfred J. Schramm was deliberately shot while attending him.
The same morning the 3rd Battalion of the 355th resumed its attack on Georgenthal. At 0800 the town was given a good workout by the 341st FA. An hour and a half later the entire town was cleared as well as the woods to the north and the Battalion moved on towards Ohrdruf. They were followed by the 2nd Battalion which relieved them at Wolfis at 1900.
The 1st Battalion was relieved of its attachment to the 353rd Infantry at 1200 and was motorized and moved to Grafenhain by 1630. The 3rd Battalion moved out of Finsterbergen at 1100 and cleared the woods south and east of Georgenthal. The Battalion remained in position in the woods south of Georgenthal for the night. The Regimental CP remained in the castle at Friedrichroda.
On April 10 the 1st Battalion attempted to move forward at 0630 but was stopped by heavy fire. One German tank was destroyed. At 0930 tank destroyers from Co. B of the 602nd TDs were called forward to clear the enemy tank installations facing the 1st. At 1200 the Battalion ran into two tanks and several half-tracks in the woods south of Ohrdruf. These two tanks later turned out to be U.S. light tanks employed by the Germans. Co. B tried to enter the woods but was held up by automatic fire. During the ensuing fire fight Pvt. Wayne Clark, the lead scout, was killed by sniper fire which covered the German's automatic weapons position. Aided by tanks from Co. B, 707th Tank Battalion, the positions were knocked out and Co. B moved in to clear the woods and taken an underground aircraft factory just north of Crawinkel. The Battalion then reverted to Regimental reserve in the vicinity of Ohrdruf.
At 0600 the 2nd Battalion sent a reinforced platoon into the woods northeast of Wolfis and got in touch with elements of the 355th Infantry on their left. The rest of the Battalion pushed on to Espenfeld. Late in the afternoon Co. F tried to cross the Gera River but heavy fire forced them back.
The 3rd Battalion moved out of the woods and into Ohrdruf in the morning and passed through the 2nd Battalion zone at 1300. East of Wolfis they were held up by 200 rounds of enemy artillery fire for an hour. During this concentration S/Sgt. John W. Schlalos, a Battalion Hq Co. medic, moved forward with litter teams to help take care of the wounded. As other men were injured, he continued to move forward, directing the movement of the litter teams and giving first aid. He stayed in the field until every wounded man was evacuated. Then he returned to his post at the Battalion Aid Station and helped Capt. Joseph A. Hall Jr., the Battalion Surgeon, in the treatment and evacuation of the wounded.